Application to the biotechnology program of columbia university.


Statement of Purpose

My interest in biology emerged from a life-threatening experience four years ago. During the summer break prior to my college application, I took a trip to Tibet.Accompanied by a local monk, we traveled among the undeveloped villages scattered over the Tibetan Plateau. At the end of the trip, I caught a fever in the middle of nowhere. And, unfortunately, the car that was taking me to the hospital broke down while we were on the road. The situation required that someone go to the nearest village for help or both the driver and me would be stuck there in the mountains. Since the vehicle was a tempting target for local outlaws, it would be more dangerous for a sick person like myself to stay in the vehicle alone. That’s how, at an altitude of 4,000 meters and with a 39-degree Celsius body temperature, I took on the burden of walking back the way we’d come to find the closest settlement. I am not able to share more detailed descriptions of how I felt by then, as my consciousness was totally blurred by a terrible headache. All I can remember is the thought that I had to keep walking back until I reached another human settlement, or I wouldfaint in this desolate place and possibly die. I couldn’t recall how I persisted, but I did.

After this event, I was fascinated by my own body and by the body in general. I started to wonder about the mechanisms behind all the abilitiesthat I took for granted. I started to grow curious about what made a person move, where energy came from, and eventually, what actually determines andcontrols our activities. That is why I changed my major from chemistry to biochemistry.

During the summer break of my freshman year, I went to an internship at Biocytogen, a company that constructs customized gene-targeted animal models for clients. By transfection, we edited the mice’s chromosomes and forced them to express certain phenotypes so our client could make use of them. Even though my duty was butroutinelyfollowing the standard operation protocol, I am still quite impressed by the power we process for gene manipulation.

I’m continuing on the path of learning the power of genetics over life now, after getting into undergrad research in Professor Lisa Stubbs’ lab,under the theme of “molecular roots of the social brain.” In our theme, we examined the change in gene expression profile in the brains of mouse after a social stimuli like resident intruder or baby nursing opportunity. By comparing our finding to that of the other labs of our theme, we identified a collections of conserved “tool kits” genes that are responsible for social respond across mouse, honey bee, and zebra fish. My major responsibility is to visualized the localization of various interesting transcription factor in a transparent mouse brain using thick section CLARITY IHC method, whose protocol I helped optimized.My dedication on this duty have earned me a co-authorship in our labs newly submitted paper, which is currently in review.

Besides, more specifically, I use qRTPCR and ClARITY ISH to study the alternative splicing of transcription factor TCF7L2 in mouse brain whose resident is intruded using primer that designed by my own. Last but not least, I have also used Chip-Seq to analysis the differential expression pattern of the socially challenged mouse brain. Among every thing I did in the lab, this method is what I am most fond of as it provides us a board overview of the differential regulations in the brain of the test subject and hence helps us to understand the gene regulation network in a macro prospective.

Aside from the excellent faculty and facility of my alma mater and the great experience I had in the university during my stay in the past three years, the most important reason for me to stay is so I could keep working in the lab of Lisa Stubbs, whose genomics approach on neurology fascinated me even before my undergraduate research started and grew even fascinating as I kept working in her lab. I am convinced that this PhD program will help me unlock more secrets behind the cognitive behaviors that we take for granted.

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